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Niel Van Meeuwen


Influencing from the inside out

In the initial phase of my career, my focus was mainly on ICT issues: the use of technology to support learning, and of social media to accelerate communication. My interest in these themes is still there but has got a totally different place in the work that I am currently doing. The focus on learning and change remains, but now takes place at a different level in organizations and other contexts.


Strategic issues

Increasingly I find myself at the table with representatives from higher management, boards of directors, CEOs .... Places where stakes play a major role. I like to work in settings where a multi-stakeholder perspective and complexity thinking is required, where organizational development issues have a link with financial and efficiency questions.

The language at those 'decision places' of large organizations is different. It is not so much about learning of individuals and teams, but about strategic issues that affect the whole organization. So the learning perspective needs to have its focus on the scale of the whole. How do you organize learning on the level of an entire system? My process and systems thinking add value to this kind of question. 


Conversations of high quality

The way people frame their organizational question to me is often as if they struggle with ‘a cultural problem’. "Niel", people say for example, "We have been working on the mechanics of the car for a long time: it's going faster, more efficient, more streamlined. But now we also want to make it a pleasant drive. People need to feel well in that car, and show themselves as engaged and responsible drivers."

In such cases, I start with qualitative conversations. I don’t make a plan, but engage in a joint inquiry to discover what goes well and what can be strengthened. This often concerns the quality of conversation and networking in those organizations. Or the effectiveness of leadership. These are exciting and sometimes tense processes, in which fear of losing control and loss of face play a role. Inquiring appreciative and asking questions is very beneficial, and works really better than advocating, taking a strong position, or aiming to win. Attention shifts - in addition to figures - to people and their motives.


Being sustainably involved

As a consultant entering and leaving change processes has its limitations. I get to know these limits more and more when I try to generate real impact. I want to be increasingly involved in what happens in an organization, to acquire an influential position in which I can really add value from a different approach. Influencing the system from the inside out. Taking the role of initiator and looking with a systemic view. I do this, among others, through interim constructions. By being part of an organization for a longer period of time or more days a week, I feel I can really add more value and make a difference. Because of my current MBA study, I will become more proficient in it, also because it means an enormous deepening of my financial-economic knowledge, and of the language that people speak at the 'decision places'.